The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Government Shutdown:
Working Without Pay

Jan 21, 2019

The partial government shutdown has dragged into its fourth week. On top of threatening services like food stamps, public housing, and national parks, hundreds of thousands of workers have been effectively laid off, and hundreds of thousands of others have been working without pay. The government has labeled these workers “essential,” so they have to report – even though they have started missing paychecks.

Federal workers and contractors have been postponing necessary surgeries, falling into debt, and skipping bills and even rent payments. Nonetheless, while more people have been calling in sick than normal, so far, most of these “essential” workers have been reporting to work, despite the missing paychecks.

Undoubtedly, they report in partially because of the threat of being fired, and mostly with the hope of eventually getting back pay. Also most workers feel obligated to perform their jobs to provide services needed by the public.

In any case, the fact that the federal government is making almost half a million people go to work with only a promise of pay “sometime,” is a sign of how far the ruling class is willing to go.

As the shutdown drags on, and its effects deepen and spread out, we can hope to see a fight-back develop among sections of workers directly or indirectly affected; a fight that could spread and inspire others like the teacher strikes did last year. Why should workers be set so far back on bills, risking homes, health and savings, just for the politicians’ petty political duels?

One thing is for sure – workers will only be able to solve the problems they face by organizing and counting on our own forces.